Fire danger

Fire danger was reported low after showers moved through the area Sunday. The risk had been elevated until the rain arrived.

Despite all the moisture in the ground and recent light rain, fire danger remains high in Monroe County.

Megan Mickelson, Department of Natural Resources forest ranger, said fire danger will be elevated until the landscape turns green.

The weather is the biggest determining factor in how fires start and spread, Mickelson said.

“Temperature, wind, humidity and precipitation are the key weather components that determine the daily fire danger,” she said. “Once we get some weather event with a cold front that brings precipitation, we’ll start to see short-term relief.”

She said the fire danger normally receeds once deciduous trees start to leaf out.

“It won’t be until things are fully green and humidity rises in early summer time that we’re at a low fire danger,” Mickelson said. “Even then it’s not uncommon that we see a drought in summer ... but throughout the spring we’re always in fire danger.”

Historically, April is the month of highest fire danger, according to the DNR. Wildfires can happen just about any time of the year, but history has shown 60 percent of all wildfires in Wisconsin each year occur in March, April and May.

The number-one cause of Wisconsin wildfires is debris burning, Mickelson said.

“Many people are eager to get outside to clean up their properties by raking leaf litter, brush and pine needles so it looks good and is ready for new growth, then they choose to burn their debris pile,” she said. “Secondary causes are equipment-caused fires ... but the biggest one is definitely debris burning.”

She also said fireworks trigger wildfires “once in a while.”

The easiest way to avoid causing a fire is to know the local danger and obtain a burning permit, Mickelson said.

“They’re free and take maybe a minute or so to fill out,” she said.

She said people can obtain a permit by stopping at the ranger station, calling the Wis-Burn hotline, which is 1-888-wis-burn (947-2876) or they can do it online.

“It takes a minute to fill it out and then print it out,” Mickelson said of the online option. “There are a bunch of ways to get permits.”

She urged anyone who plans to burn materials to check the Wis-Burn hotline on a daily basis.

Anyone who causes a wildfire could be subject to penalties, Mickelson said.

“You could be liable for the costs it takes to suppress that fire and potentially any damages. Getting your permit and checking those daily fire restrictions is a much cheaper and safer option,” she said. “To avoid these concerns altogether, consider composting your yard waste or hauling it to a transfer site. Burning debris should always be the last alternative.”

Once the snowcover is gone, the DNR requires burning permits in DNR protection areas. Permit holders are authorized to burn vegetative materials, such as leaves, brush and pine needles, and the regulations are designed so that burning is done safely with minimal wildfire risk.

If someone is going to burn, the best time to do so is usually at night, Mickelson said.

“We like to see people burning at night. It is typically when we see wind die down and be less likely to ignite,” she said.

Those intending to burn should also have items on hand to stop the spread of a possible fire, Mickelson said.

“People should keep tools (near the burning site) − hoses, rakes, shovels, anything to make sure you have a way to put a fire out in case it gets out of hand,” she said.

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Meghan Flynn can be reached at meghan.flynn@lee.net.

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